Missing Couple, 29 and 27, Found Dead a Half-Mile Inside California Forest

Paul Arthur Stockwell Jr., 29, and Ria Gabriella Williams, 27, were last seen together on Jan. 29

Ria Williams, Paul Stockwell
Photo: Facebook

A young couple who went missing during a hiking trip have been found dead in a California forest, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department confirmed on Tuesday.

The remains of Paul Arthur Stockwell Jr., 29, and Ria Gabriella Williams, 27, were located by authorities on Monday afternoon, a half-mile into a forest in Big Bear. Deputies had discovered Williams’ car in a parking lot earlier that morning.

Williams, of Santa Ana, and Stockwell, of Big Bear, had not been seen by their loved ones since Wednesday, Jan. 29. Stockwell’s father alerted authorities to his disappearance later that week, while Williams’ colleague reported her missing that Friday, the department said.

“On Friday, January 31, Williams did not report to work, and a co-worker reported her missing. Stockwell had also been reported missing by his father,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

“At about 1:30 p.m. [on Feb. 3], a man and woman were found deceased approximately one-half mile into the forest,” the department said of finding the couple. “Due to the circumstances, Specialized Detectives from the Homicide Detail were requested to conduct the investigation.”

Stockwell and Williams were located about a half-mile west of the Big Bear Discovery Center, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Autopsies will help to determine the couple’s cause of death, the department said, adding that foul play is not suspected at this time.

“Neither of the missing person reports indicated any suspicious circumstances or reason to suspect foul play,” they continued.

The couple’s bodies were located near Cougar Crest Trail, which is described as a “gentle uphill climb” at its start, before becoming more strenuous.

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“The first mile is a gentle uphill climb,” according to a description on the USDA Forest Service. “But after a mile or so you will realize you are gaining altitude.”

The trail ends at the juncture of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

Users of the outdoors website All Trails rated Cougar Crest 4.5 out of 5 stars and listed it as “moderate.”

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